Everton Director of Medical Danny Donachie says James Rodriguez was on course to be fully fit for the start of Colombia’s Copa America campaign.
Midfielder James has been left out of his country’s 24-man squad for the tournament next month and preceding World Cup qualifying matches against Peru and Argentina.
Although James missed the final two games of Everton’s Premier League campaign due to the recurrence of a calf injury, Donachie said he had no concerns over the player’s fitness and he could have played some part in his country’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
But, after "good communications" between Everton and Colombia’s medical departments, it was decided it was safer to wait for the start of the Copa America, so James could complete his rehabilitation.
The South American tournament is due to start on 13 June, providing a replacement host is arranged following a coronavirus surge in Argentina.
James joined Everton from Real Madrid on the eve of 2020/21 and in his debut Goodison Park campaign played 26 matches – starting 24.
He scored six goals and provided nine assists for Carlo Ancelotti’s team before the minor calf problem ended his season early.
“It was a very small injury at the end of the season and we had no issues at all with James joining up with Colombia,” Donachie told evertonfc.com.
“He was hoping to play in the two qualifiers [on June 4 and 9] and the only discussion we had with the Colombian FA was whether that was a good idea, or whether it would be more prudent to prepare him for the tournament.
“We decided collectively it would be better for him not to play in the two World Cup matches, then he would be absolutely ready for the start of the Copa America and able to play the entire tournament without any issues.
“I have seen the tests carried out by Colombia and there is nothing in them to say he is not going to be fit for that competition.
“We agreed he would be fully fit, without any questions, for the start of the Copa America.
“We spoke about his rehab and they agreed to continue the process but there was never a doubt in our mind he would be in top condition in time for the tournament.”
James has 80 caps and 23 goals for Colombia and featured in his country’s Copa America quarter-final campaign two years ago.
He captained the team on his past four appearances – World Cup qualifying fixtures contested during Premier League international breaks back in October and November.
The forthcoming Copa America is beset by logistical difficulties after the South American Football Confederation confirmed on Monday that Argentina would no longer stage the competition because of a spike in COVID-19 cases.
Political unrest in Colombia led to the country's removal as co-hosts earlier this month.
If new hosts are secured – Chile and USA have both been mooted – Colombia are due to kick-off their bid for a second South American title with a game against Ecuador on 15 June.
James’ non-involvement means he is expected among the first wave of Everton players reporting for pre-season training ahead of 2021/22.
“James will be back with us on 5 July [assuming no change of heart from Colombia] and ready for a full pre-season,” said Donachie.
“There was no way he could be involved in the final two games last season and he was frustrated and disappointed about that.
“We track every player individually and have information on every element of their physical condition and performance.
“And, in terms of this particular injury, there would have been no long-term risk in him playing the Copa America.
“James loves playing football and will do anything to get back on the pitch.
“He is desperate to play for Colombia, that is for sure, and he always wants to be on the pitch for Everton.”